January 13, 2009
Dash to the finish
The final day of a trip to the Middle East by North American Lutheran bishops ended with a flurry of activity, with most clergy visiting West Bank schools while a smaller delegation made contact with political and government leaders.
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada National Bishop Susan C. Johnson of the on Tuesday held visits with the Palestinian Authority's prime minister, president and Jerusalem mayor's offices, as well as the Islamic Supreme Court and the Russian Orthodox Church.
|ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson presents a gift to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad. |
First, though, "justice must prevail. ... Violence must stop," Fayad said.
From there the ELCA and ELCIC leaders drove across the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet with representatives of the office of the president. Rafiq Husseini, chief of staff, said he believed Palestinian Christians were being targeted by Israel to leave the West Bank.
Once Christians — who at one time made up 22 percent of the population but now total no more 1.5 percent — are gone, Husseini said he fears the West will drop interest in the then-Muslim country.
|Hanson signs a book of condolences for the death of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II (depicted in the portrait in the background. Younan and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Theolphilos III watch.|
"Rarely do we find an international person like you" promoting the welfare of Palestinians, al-Tamimi said of Hanson, who is also president of the Lutheran World Federation.
The bishops were in the Middle East for a week in an effort to stress accompaniment with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, raise awareness of regional issues and boost advocacy for peace.
|ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson (left), Hanson and Younan lay a wreath at the grave of Yitzhak Rabin.|
The delegation also met with Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III. They paid their respects for the Dec. 5, 2008 death of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.
And as the day ended, leaders laid a wreath at the grave of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He was instrumental in the Oslo Accord that led to limited Palestinian rule in the West Bank and Israel. On Monday, the group had place a wreath at the tomb of the other signatory to the accord, Yasser Arafat.